Friday, June 29, 2012

STRS receives nearly $80 million from Obamacare

Plunderbund, June 29, 2012
Ohio companies see big benefit from ACA’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program
by on June 29, 2012
As we watch Republicans gear up for their “repeal and replace” effort after the historic Affordable Care Act (ACA) decision by the Supreme Court, it seems worth mentioning that some of Ohio’s biggest employers – including many big Republican donors and detractors of “Obamacare” – have also been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the ACA.
One of the programs directly responsible for helping employers is the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP). The program is aimed at employers who are dealing with rising health care costs with the goal of helping them to remain “competitive in the global marketplace.” To accomplish this goal, the program is set up to provide “$5 billion in financial assistance to employers and unions to help them maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare.”
A current list of businesses, other employers, and unions from Ohio that have been accepted into the program is available here. A quick look at the list shows some interesting results.
The Dispatch, for example, has written again and again about the Affordable Care Act and how it is “dreadful public policy”. Yet the Dispatch Printing Company received $361,653 in funds from the ERRP.
Back in September, Robert Murray, owner of Murray Energy, claimed “President Barack Hussein Obama is the greatest threat to the economy of the State of Ohio and this country”. Murray’s Ohio Valley Coal Company received $299,987.
In 2010, FirstEnergy gave over $500,949 to Republicans, including over $11K to Kasich/Taylor. This year they’ve already donated almost $300k to the GOP as they continue their fight to repeal the ACA. FirstEnergy has received $6.13 MILLION dollars.
The Timken company is such an important Republican donor that John Boehner personally helped gerrymander Ohio’s new 16th congressional district so the company’s HQ remained in Republican Jim Renacci’s district. Employees and owners of the Timken company have given Kasich/Taylor over $65K and Mary Taylor’s previous campaigns have previously received over $23K from the same people. The Timken Company has received nearly 5.4 Million dollars from the ACA’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program despite directly funding candidates and office holders who are fighting to repeal the program.
While we’re on the topic of Kasich and Taylor, in a call today LG Taylor made is pretty clear that she and Kasich will be toeing the party line on the ACA. According to Taylor,“best solution to repeal Obamacare … is for a new White House and new Congress who will do that.” It seems Taylor’s big reason for opposing the exchanges is the supposed additional costs to the state. We’ll deal with this in detail in an upcoming post on the health care exchanges, but I think it’s sufficient to say she’s not telling the whole story.
Kasich and Taylor will continue to push back against the ACA for purely political reasons, but one thing you won’t hear them talking about on the next conference call is the enormous benefit the ACA’s ERRP has provided to our State’s companies or to the public retirement and pension systems. The Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio (PERS) has alone received over $180 million from the ERRP. The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio has received nearly $80 million and the The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund has received almost $17 million.
Ohio’s Republicans will continue trying to convince you that the Affordable Care Act will bankrupt the state and hurt Ohio’s companies and citizens. But the facts just aren’t on their side.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

J. - please contact me

Will the person who e-mailed me on (or about) 6/25/12 requesting information please try again? I have lost your e-mail. Thank you. Kathie

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let this be a wakeup call to you educators out there who think it's a sin to become politically active, as....

From John Curry, June 26, 2012's about time you get your head out of your __! Your job depends on it! Don't believe me? Read on.
Controversial education reform group helped Chamber push Kasich’s anti-teacher budget
On June 26, 2012
Records obtained by Plunderbund reveal that a branch of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce received a huge grant from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst just as they started ramping up lobbying efforts to promote anti-teacher legislation in Ohio.
According to the Form 990 filed by StudentsFirst, a $100,000 grant was given to the Partnership for Ohio’s Future, a 501(c)(4) formed and operated by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The group’s website lists an email address at the Chamber for contact information, and the Partnership’s mailing address is the same as the Chamber’s.
(Click image to enlarge)
You may remember that Rhee, a controversial figure in the education world, was spending a lot of time in Ohio in early 2011, just as Kasich and the legislature started working on SB5 and Kasich’s budget. This is no coincidence.

Rhee was in Ohio publicly supporting Kasich’s agenda at widely publicized events like the screening of “Waiting for Superman”. Showings of the movie, an anti-public school documentary hit piece in which Rhee appears, were being promoted by severely right-wing groups like Americans for Prosperity and sponsored by The Ohio Chamber of Commerce – which we now know was receiving funding directly from Rhee’s organization.
The Chamber has long supported Kasich’s agenda with its own PR and its own cash, and the big money from Rhee’s organization helped them promote her cause while continuing to help out the governor.
Behind the scenes, Rhee’s organization was also working hard trying to directly influence legislation.
In January of 2011, Rhee’s group started hiring lobbyists to pressure the legislature to pass anti-teacher “merit-pay” and teacher retesting laws, and their first hire was Kasich’s long-time friend Robert Klafky.
According to The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC), Klaffky started working for StudentsFirst in January and his focus included SB5, the controversial and eventually overturned collective bargaining bill, and HB 153, Kasich’s Budget. According to Klaffky, he worked primarily on teacher “merit pay issues in these bills.
Later in the year, StudentsFirst hired two additional lobbyists: Bridget Davis and Chad Aldis. Aldis continues working for them today and JLEC shows his focus is on on pro-charter/private school legislation including the Cleveland school reform plan that hurts teachers and gives local tax money to charters.
Rhee’s initial lobbying paid off – kind of. After giving indirectly to help Governor Kasich’s budget she went on the road for him. She also hired multiple lobbyists and pushed for multiple bills. And while the State Senate removed the controversial “merit pay” and teacher retesting language from Kasich’s original budget, lighter versions of both were added back in during conference committee. And no doubt there is more to come.
Rhee is on a roll. StudentsFirst is reportedly on track to raise hundreds of millions of dollar over the next year from anti-public school advocates and billionaire hedge fund managers. And they plan to put that money into state-based efforts like the one in Ohio. Given what happened here last year, and the amount of money available, I have no doubt that Kasich, Ohio’s Republican legislators, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and all of Kasich’s lobbying friends, will continue falling all over themselves to help Rhee out.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In case you're confused about Obamacare, here are the highlights

• Insurance reforms to protect consumers from insurance company worst-practices – like denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, capping total coverage, and dropping or watering down coverage when you get sick and need it most
• Consumer protections that will restrict how much of your premium dollars insurance companies can spend on marketing, profits, and salaries
• Creation of a health exchange to increase consumer choice and guarantee coverage
• Affordable health options, with subsidies for working families and a hardship waiver
• Tax credits to help small businesses afford coverage
• Making preventive care completely free – with no co-payments or deductibles
• Lowering the cost of health care for our seniors
• Improving the quality and extending the life of Medicare
• Ensuring that reform is not only fully paid for, but actually significantly reduces the federal deficit
Why the need for reform?
• Health care insurance premiums DOUBLED from 2000 to 2008, and is expected to DOUBLE within the next decade, putting more people not able to afford it
• Some 30 million people are not covered by health care insurance, and 80% of these people are working people who are too poor to afford insurance or are denied because of pre-existing conditions
• Many people with health care insurance now are exploited by insurance companies' worst practices and got watered-down versions or were being dropped totally
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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